Many Nigerians had before BVN regime opened multiple accounts with different names and in different banks for various reasons. Some did it because they never wanted to be traced to the accounts. But the BVN has exposed them, as they now approach the banks quietly to confess their ownership.
Most affected are those with multiple bank accounts and inconsistent bio-data information, who have been unable to operate their accounts since the expiration of the deadline.
Many Nigerians have multiple accounts in different names with little differences. Others have conflicting bio data in the accounts. So these accounts could not be linked, since they are domiciled in different banks. Therefore, they are assumed not to have complied with the BVN requirement.
Owners of the accounts are being requested to swear affidavit and publish the document as proof of ownership of such accounts before the banks could correct wrong data and to be granted access to operate such accounts.
As a result of the requirement, various courts in Lagos are inundated with applications for change of names and data affidavit with which to effect changes in the bank documents and to be BVN compliant.
The Guardian had a chat with an affected female journalist with one of the private TV stations in Lagos at a Lagos court premises, where she just swore to an affidavit of change of name, saying she did it because of BVN palaver.
“I have my Salary account with FCMB and I have another account at Diamond Bank. I did my BVN at Diamond Bank and went to FCMB for BVN for linkage as directed. But the linkage failed because; according to them, some personal information with the two banks differ, especially in respect of my date of birth. Since that time I have not been able to collect my salary because I have not been able to operate the account. But they asked me to go and swear to an affidavit and cause it to be published for documentation as a proof of ownership of the account, before my account could be linked to the one at Diamond bank for BVN. I have just done that now and I am looking for how to cause its publication in one of the newspapers to show the bank,” she said.
A business woman, who gave her name as Mrs. Funmi Peters, narrated her ordeal at her Ajah residence, saying she could not operate her account for a while, because of the difficulty in linking her three accounts in different banks.
She said it was not deliberate on her part to open three accounts in different names, adding that marriage necessitated the differences in the names in her accounts.
‘’ I was stranded for a week at GT bank, where I have an account, at a time when I urgently needed money. It became imperative for me to link my accounts, but I couldn’t because the accounts bore two different surnames. One of the accounts had my maiden name, while the other had my present surname. Linking the accounts became a difficult process because the banks requested for a copy of my marriage certificate, but I was wedded traditionally; that week was a nightmare because the account I needed to access money from was blocked and I couldn’t buy anything. I had to quickly get an affidavit, and also publish a change of name in a newspapers, and submitted them, after which the restriction on my account was removed some days after,” she said.
An authoritative source at Fidelity bank confirmed the frustration of many customers, saying many; especially women have genuine cases because of the change in their marital status.
“The information you have about the challenges many Nigerians have as a result of BVN is correct. Many of the affected women are the married ones with two accounts. They opened the account when they were not married and after their marriage, they opened another and in different banks. So you expect them to have their accounts in different names. In that case, we just ask them to go and swear affidavit, so that we can match the name with a face and fingerprint, since no two persons in this world can have one fingerprint,” he said
According to him, the BVN is an ongoing thing. So if you have multiple accounts and there are issues surrounding your name, especially for ladies that are married, all you need to do is to bring official document, he said.
An official of sky bank, also many accounts would become dormant by March 2016, if the owners fail to be BVN compliant.
“Many Nigerians are liars. They opened accounts in different names and in different banks. Many of them have approached me to say they are the owner of account x with a different name. These are men, not women. They come here every day to get information on how to go about it, so as to be able to have access to the accounts. A lot of them have different bio data in the accounts. But we keep telling them to come with proof of ownership that will enable them do their BVN linkage. I don’t know how many of them have complied, but all I can tell you now is that we have a number of accounts that will go dormant soon because of this problem.”
The Director, Corporate communications at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ibrahim Muazu said bank customers with multiple accounts and in different names would need to cross some legal hurdles in order to come out of the problem.
“If mistake had been made, it has to be corrected. The law allows change of name in a legal way so as to streamline the names and collapse them into one name. We just have to be patient with the process of changing of names, because they have to find a legal way to resolve the issues. In the past people were doing multiple banking transactions in different names to achieve a goal, but now you can no longer do it, because you can only have one identity and you can no longer do illegal transactions,” he said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had refused to extent the period of BVN registration beyond October, as it insisted that non-registered bank customers would be barred from accessing their money or do any transaction in their account after October.
About 26 million bank customers were initially affected by the closure, but the number may have reduced as many are now trying to comply with the legal process to get their accounts harmonised
The BVN was introduced by the CBN and was launched on February 14 last year. It is the registration of customers in the financial system using biometric technology. The objective of the BVN initiative is to protect bank customers, reduce fraud and further strengthen the Nigerian banking system.